Unexplained mystery sounds in Oregon?
Our state is notorious for the paranormal and unsolved. From the heavily documented hauntings at Hot Lake and Dawson House Lodge to creepy experiences in the Van Duzer Corridor and the famous McMinnville UFO; it’s strange up in here.
The legend of Bigfoot is one that refuses to die. Oregon’s dance with the hirsute, mythological creature began in 1904 when settlers in the coast range near the Sixes River reported sightings of a hairy “wild man” nearby. Historical accounts reach much further back than that. Bigfoot is also known as Sasquatch, which is (according to the Oregon Encyclopedia) “an Anglicization of the name Sasq’ets, from the Halq’emeylem language spoken by First Nations peoples in southwestern British Columbia”.
From 2012-2013, residents on the Umatilla Reservation in eastern Oregon began hearing strange screaming and cackling noises that seemed to be emanating from a nearby swamp. The sounds can only be described as extremely bone-chilling.
One witness was a biologist in fish and wildlife habitat recovery for twenty years, having listened to the vocalizations of many indigenous species in his professional background. This particular sound was like nothing he had ever experienced before:
“I heard this weird and very loud wailing, screaming, laughing noise that sounded like a cross between a woman hysterically screaming and then quickly changing to hyena-like laughing and almost a ‘wooping’ yell. I jumped out of bed and ran to the front door that opens to farmland and low rolling hills. It sounded like several hundred yards out. It repeated 3-4 times, each getting quickly farther away like it was running…A couple weeks later, the same thing occurred late at night. Then, a few days later around Christmas/New Years the local newspaper ran a story about “Bigfoot” scaring tribal members and people at night. There was also a large number of phone recordings of the same crazy maniacal laughter I had heard. The residents started calling it the ‘Umatilla Screamer’.”
For two months the sounds continued intermittently, occurring on various nights between the hours of 12:00-3:00am. It was heard and recorded by many, but this is the most notorious (and thankfully unedited) video. The man talks about having listened to the calls of foxes, coyotes, and cougars, but nothing like this. At about 2:40 minutes in, an audible gunshot can be heard, followed by more and then guttural screaming.
While I’d be tempted to explain it away as a coyote caught in a trap, one YouTuber familiar with the area points out that, “traps aren’t allowed in our area and I highly doubt anyone would attempt to use [them] as this is filmed between the fire station and the tribal police station“.
Not every unexplained sound can be likened to the paranormal, however.
In February 2016, residents of Forest Grove were stumped by a repetitive, high-pitched squeal that echoed through the suburbs. 911 calls flooded in, and the shriek drew so much attention and speculation that KOIN-6 was prompted to do a spot on it for their news coverage on 2/15/2016.
ABC National News was even alerted enough to do their own story on the annoying squeal.
A gas leak? NW Natural had no record of any issues. Broken industrial equipment? Allegedly the noise was so loud and piercing that it sounded like it was being amplified by a high-powered megaphone. A rude neighbor with an airhorn and too much time on their hands? Possibly.
After Feb. 2016 the noise went away and has never been heard again. The local police and fire departments closed their investigations, but locals never received any answers for what was plaguing their neighborhood that month.
A Portland neighborhood was equally plagued with odd noises, but these were coming directly from their speakers.
In 2017, folks began noticing weird broadcasts from local radio station, 96.7FM (KZRY-LP). Scraping, squealing and static, bizarre blips interspersed with vocalizations. music, and chatter. Listening to recordings made while the station was still broadcasting is oddly unnerving because they just don’t sound…normal. At least, not for your regular radio faire.
Acutely-eared people picked out MLK and JFK speeches, Apollo 11 and Sputnik transmissions, and even clips of Lou Reed songs from the somewhat-ominous static. Once Beaverton Reddit got ahold of the story, the mission was on. You know how it goes. Humans demand explanations for anything outside of the normal parameters of life.
The broadcasts were odd enough for one of my favorite YouTubers, Nexpo, to make an entire video on 96.7 in which he dives deep into an investigation on where the radio signals were actually stemming from. As it turns out, the station was licensed to the non-profit Community Alliance of Tenants. Based out of Portland, the grass-roots organization is an advocacy group aiming to help and educate low-income and marginalized renters in Oregon.
I know you’re asking the same questions I am. Why was a community alliance group broadcasting such bizarrely anomalous programming? What does any of this have to do with helping renters? As one YouTube commenter points out, “The reason why KZRY-LP was doing this was that they were stunting, something that full power FM stations also do when they come on the air for the first time & also do when they are switching formats. They also were probably testing their broadcasting equipment“.
We’ll never know the true answer. In August of 2019, KZRY became KNUM, 96.7 “The Numberz”, a “media space for Black people and communities of color, in a city where gentrification has played a significant part in scattering their voices”. (If any folks reading this are involved with the station and know the true answer to the weird 2017-2018 broadcasts, please reach out and let us know.) In the meantime, here’s Nexpo’s video on the internet rabbit hole and ensuing urban legend over them.
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